Yesterday, the FBI proudly announced the completion of Operation Cross Country VIII. During the past week, the FBI, its local, state, and federal law enforcement partners, conducted a week-long enforcement action to address commercial child sex trafficking throughout the United States. 168 children were recovered from being bought and sold for sex. And 281 pimps were arrested on state and federal charges. According to the FBI's Director, James B. Comey, the operations were designed to "crush these pimps" and show that children are not for sale.
So, what about the persons who did think the children were for sale, and purchased them? The politely termed "Johns" who purchased children for sex? Shouldn't the FBI "crush" them too?
Of all the arrests made during Operation Cross Country VIII, there was not one arrest of a buyer.
In any other context, what happens to girls who are purchased by "Johns" would be construed as statutory rape or sexual assault of a minor.
In the marketplace of child trafficking, there is a culture of impunity for buyers. As if when the act of child rape is purchased, it is somehow less violent. But why is the rape of a child not considered a crime when it is paid for?
The FBI might tout its numbers of arrested pimps and saved children, but the decision to excuse the Johns or buyers -- as the FBI has done in previous Operation Cross Country raids -- entrenches a culture of impunity for the purchase of children for sex. Individuals can confidently buy children for sex, without fear of punishment (which is one reason why many gangs have started selling girls instead of drugs: the buyers are not afraid of getting arrested).
Despite the FBI's raid, we are no closer to demonstrating that children are not for sale. In fact, the FBI and the Department of Justice's continued focus on arresting pimps at the exclusion of buyers, signals that children are still very much for sale in the United States.